The Smurfs, Vol. 1: True Blue Friends


DVD Release Date: 03/03/2009
Creator: Peyo
Featuring the Voices Of: Don Messick, Lucille Bliss, Michael Bell, William Callaway, Hamilton Camp, June Foray, Danny Goldman, Frank Welker, Alan Oppenheimer

Vol 1: True Blue Friends


As a child growing up in the 1980s, one staple of Saturday morning television was “The Smurfs”. These 3-apple high creations have been entertaining children for over 50 years, going back to their creation by Belgian cartoonist, Peyo. In this newest DVD release, 5 nostalgia filled episodes are included. They reintroduce all of the classic characters from the series like Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy, Grouchy and Hefty.

It didn’t seem like long before hand-drawn, kid-friendly, morality tale cartoons like “The Smurfs” started disappearing from the mainstream cartoon lineups – only to be replaced by adapted versions of Japanese TV (“Power Rangers”) or cartoons more involved in merchandising than entertainment (“Yu-Gi-Oh”). Seeing these episodes again reminded me of a better era of children’s programming, where imagination was more important than marketing opportunities. Not to say that all of the lunch boxes and action figures associated with “The Smurfs” and its peers don’t exist for similar reasons, but it all seemed so much more innocent and related to fun rather than the bottom line.

This trip down memory lane is perhaps only marred by the episode selection. While the first three included episodes are all fine and dandy, the last two revolve around Johan and Peewit (pronounced “Pee-Wee”) – the pair of humans whom the Smurfs befriend. I can understand including one episode, but two?

Also, if there’s going to be only five episodes, I want the one involving Smurfs giving each other a sickness that turns them purple and spout the phrase “Gnap” (think “panic” said backwards) over and over again. The best part about the malady? They transmit it through biting each other (since Hefty contracted it from a purple mosquito). Even after all these years, that episode sticks out in my mind and I wish I could have it on this set (hence this DVD not receiving a full 5 out of 5 rating).

Still, if you’re a parent of a young child, looking to show them quality kid’s fare, this is a great idea for you because the life lessons and social interaction skills instilled in the episodes still translate today.

The DVD:



Sadly, as much fun as it is to watch the episodes, disappointment awaits if you’re looking for DVD extras. Only one extra provides something of interest and even that feels like a small segment of a much bigger extra that could have been included with no problem considering there’s only five episodes on the DVD so space shouldn’t be a problem.

I would be more annoyed about this aspect except that when it comes to cartoons coming to DVD, I really only want the episodes. There aren’t a lot of extras that would truly interest me since I’m almost singularly looking for recapturing a piece of my childhood. Of more concern to me is that the transfer process of the episodes didn’t improve the look of them, making it barely better than viewing the episodes you taped on your Betamax back in the day.

Audio/Video:

Dolby Digital 1.0 sound. Full Screen 1.33:1.

Subtitles:

English; French.

Languages:

English.

Extra Features:



Meet the Smurfs

—– This extra is a great idea, giving short profiles of individual Smurfs via narration and video clips. The problem is that there are only three Smurfs getting the treatment on this DVD (Papa Smurf, Grouchy and Tracker). I suppose this will be a feature on subsequent DVDs and so they are apportioning them out but it feels a little hollow. Of special note on the menu page for this feature, however, is an easter egg: Move the selection tool to highlight the green bag on the ground by Papa Smurf and the storyboards for the episode “Gormandizing Greedy” will play.

Trailers

—– Yup, the second (and only other) extra are trailers for other DVDs you can buy. Lame.

The Sobering Conclusion:


With a planned December 2010 CGI “Smurfs” movie in the works, it’s no surprise to start seeing the series being brought to DVD (Full seasons began to hit DVDs at the beginning of last year). While I instinctively cringe at the idea of Hollywood getting to once again tarnish my childhood, I’m happy to see the original cartoons being delivered into the hands of today’s kids. While you should definitely not expect great extras or any special elements as far as the DVD goes, the cartoon still holds up and will entertain both fans of the show who have since grown up (on the outside) and kids never exposed to good, quality 2D animation – which is basically a dead art today.